What a Beautiful Day

Today is our 38th wedding anniversary. That’s 13,879 days of marriage. I am still in love.

This could be a long post about our story and God’s presence within it, but I will spare you the details and share some music with you. (Click the blue words below, listen to the lyrics and ignore the bowling video. What was Rascal Flatts thinking?) This music best captures my feelings about 13,879 ordinary days where God is present in ordinary ways again and again.

What a Beautiful Day each and every day has been with your Everyday Love, My Darling. Happy Anniversary. I don’t deserve you.

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Seeking a Commitment

I’ve become a huge Twitter user, I’m not going to say I’m obsessed – but I use it a lot.  I really enjoy tweets from @foryourmarriage – an account used to post daily comments about marriage and blog posts from other people.  It is a portion of the USCCB’s initiatives to nurture the Sacrament of Marriage.

Today a blog post came from David Gibson that discussed the importance of the words within the marriage vows.  Gibson quotes a priest from London who said:

“The words of marriage and the meaning they embody add a seriousness that young people are actually looking for. These words serve as a reminder that the woman and man “are not just creating a landscape from their own imagination.” Rather, they are “going on a journey into a vast, beautiful, awe-inspiring but unknown, uncharted and slightly risky territory.”

This quote, and the rest of the blog post, made me think back to when I was a teenager and it was one of my life goals to get married.  It wasn’t that I was some horny adolescent male just looking for some physical love, and it wasn’t that I was off to the races to complete all of my life goals as soon as I could.  Looking back on it, it was the sense of commitment and love that I found so important.  I wanted to commit myself to someone else, and have them commit themselves to me so that I would be able to share my life with someone.  This seems a bit ironic to me because of a growing hesitancy towards commitments.  I often hear people expressing that they don’t want to feel tied down, they want to be able to live freely – and that is in regards to making dinner plans not even marriage!

That said, I didn’t want to just settle on anyone who was willing to do that.  The time had to be right, the feelings had to be mutual, and this person had to be someone who would support and share their life with me.  There was no magical moment, no fairy tale dream, just the stars aligning.  And so I felt God was moving Caitlin and I to get married.  How could I pass up such an opportunity to share the rest of my life with someone, especially if God was calling me to it?

Part of the wedding vows that I have engraved on the inside of my ring are the priest’s line: “What God has joined, no human must divide.”  I wasn’t afraid we’d separate at some point, but I chose this quote as a reminder that this is something driven by God – greater than our own desires.  There are many quarrels and distractions which can get in between two people and I wanted myself to be constantly reminded that despite those tough times, the grace of God and love for one another brings us together.  Therefore we are united by this commitment of love that we professed in our vows almost six months ago.

It’s an interesting thing to think about – what is it about marriage that makes it one of my life goals?  I don’t believe that goal ends at the wedding day either.

Balancing Time

The first year was the hardest.  You’d think after years of preparing, I’d be ready for the change in my life.  I’m not sure you can ever be ready.

It didn’t help that my wife just moved to the area.  She had lots of friends, 1000 miles away.  My friends were right down the street.  I’m a social animal, and I’ve always been happy to open my door to friends wherever, whenever.  But that all changed when we tied the knot.  Suddenly, someone had a monopoly on my time.  When you’re trying to excel at your first adult job and trying to spend time with the woman you’ve committed y0ur life to, it’s hard to make time for friends.

This was my major concern in year one of our marriage:  How do I balance the time I spend with my wife with the time I spend with my friends?  Now I know that I was asking the wrong question.  As I struggled to figure out ways to spend time with my wife, while making an effort to stay close to my friends, I lost track of person whose needs I knew best:  Myself.  No matter how much of an introvert you are, you can’t survive without people.  No matter how much of an extrovert you are, you can’t survive without a little alone time.  For some, this is just the morning drive.  For others, it’s a few hours after work curled up with a good book.  Unfortunately, like sleep, alone time is one of the first things to go when the schedule gets tight.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for my brilliant wife to realize that meeting my needs meant giving me some time alone.  Now, she can tell when I need a little “Eric Time” for reflection, to decompress, to escape into a book about swords and dragons.  I’m really glad she did, because if it wasn’t for her, I’d still be asking the wrong question.

Who comes first?

Caitlin reads a blog by Meg Keene who started her blog while preparing for her wedding and has continued to write as “a reclaiming wife.”  Meg recently had a post where she talks about the need to put ourselves first in our married relationships, dwelling on the statement that we can be a better spouse if we take care of ourselves first.  I don’t necessarily disagree with this approach, time by ourselves and fulfilling our own needs and desires is important even in such close and intimate relationships.  However, Meg’s post dwells on this need in reaction to the stereo-type that wife-hood involves selflessness and if a wife becomes too consumed in this selflessness she will forget to take care of herself.  My initial reaction is to recognize a problem here, that selflessness is part of any marriage and communal life-style.  There are daily decisions that we have to thoughtfully and intentionally make with ourselves AND those around us in mind.  Therefore, yes wife-hood involves selflessness but so does husband-hood.  Part of that selflessness is acknowledging the needs of our spouse and putting our own needs aside for a moment.  If Caitlin needs some alone time and I want to do something together, it can be more important for me to be selfless and put my desires aside so that she has some time to herself before we spend some time together.  There’s an element of compromise that goes together with selflessness and both are integral to the commitment that marriage entails.  Check out Meg’s post and see what you think for yourself.

Happy Valentine’s Day

If you were to dine with us in our house you would be served a most generous meal. You would be part of a great conversation on a myriad of subjects. You would enjoy the art of our dining room and its long table where we can sit twenty somewhat comfortably. You would leave our house thoroughly sated in body and soul. At least we hope you would.

What you probably would not notice in our dining room are the places where the seams on the wallpaper do not come cleanly together. Your attention would not likely focus on the chipped baseboard paint or the hole in the upholstery. You would likely report to others of the grand evening in splendid atmosphere at our big yellow house.

But I know differently. I know all the wallpaper seams because I hung that wallpaper and each open seam infuriates me. I know I need to repaint the woodwork and haven’t done so for a very long time. I know the upholstery needs to be replaced every time I sit in one of those imperfect chairs. I know my house.

And I know me. It is hard for me to write about myself or my marriage. I can truly say it has been a wonderful thirty-seven years that I have spent with my wife, Joan. I believe our relationship to be graced, that is to be filled with God’s goodness.

But, I know my faults. I know the imperfections I bring to our relationship. I know where I could do better and haven’t. I know my sins and despite a forgiving God, I take no pride in my many lapses.

You will read of our relationship here from time to time. Joan is amazing. Me . . . not so much. This is not a false humility. This is an understanding of my many imperfections that have made me appreciate a forgiving God as seen through a wonderful woman who keeps reminding me everyday that she loves me. Who despite my flaws continues to keep the Grace flowing. Who seems to look past the gaps and the holes telling everyone that I am wonderful too.

Isn’t love grand?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What to write about…

For the past month I’ve been thinking about what to post about.  Periodically during the day I’ll be reminded, man I haven’t posted anything on the blog yet – and neither has anyone else!  I had a small, secret hope that someone else would be the first one to post and kick things off and I could just feed off of them instead of coming up with my topic.  So I finally decided to put that selfish thought aside and just go for it.

As I was thinking about topics to discuss I consistently thought, “well I don’t want people knowing THAT about me (or my marriage).”  But then, once I thought about it, I realized that in some sense that fuels a stereotype against married men.  The stereotype is that women are the ones who are always getting together and gabbing about the different details of their relationship, while the men get together and grunt, watch football and do everything they can to avoid the details of what makes they enjoy about their spouse.  So here I am, slightly hesitant to discuss different aspects of my relationship because it’s not what I am accustomed to and I’m not used to sharing those details about my life.  I’m not saying that Caitlin, my spouse, is out discussing our personal life, but my point is that I am still trying to figure out how to share my personal life.  As much as I think that stereotype is a bunch of crap and then men should talk about their love life with other men, I find it difficult sometimes to talk about such personal things.  And so maybe this blog is where we start to break that stereotype and start to talk about our love life, what makes us tick.  Our decision to commit to marriage is a testament to the fact that we believe in love, so lets start to act that way and discuss why we believe in love, why we made that decision.  And I realize that we will delve into our personal lives on here, but I also trust that our readers, particularly those who know us, are mature enough to read this blog with mature eyes not looking for scandal and some licentious insight into our love lives.

So I challenge everybody to reflect (and share if you wish)… what’s love got to do with it?  Why choose love?  How is love something we experience, and commit to everyday in our marriage?

Just Warming Up…

Yes I’ve had blogs in the past which were a quick flop – something I would update often and trail off as I became less creative or as life somehow became busier.  This time around I’m hoping to challenge myself and pace myself while also welcoming others to post as contributors.  So really this isn’t my blog, but a blog.

The background… When I was preparing for marriage, it was difficult to find books that discussed what I really wanted to prepare myself for – to be a good husband.  Sure there are a ton of books out there on marriage, keeping things alive, etc.  But I couldn’t find a book that talked about what it meant to be a husband and how marriage is really a commitment of love and equality not a commitment of domination (or submission depending which spouse you are).  So when I got married I thought it could be interesting to talk about my journey of marriage and how I struggle and triumph in being a loving husband.

The contributors… I quickly realized that I wanted things to be a bit more well-rounded than my novice experience of marriage and so I have asked some people whose marriages I admire to be contributors to this blog so that I am not only posting about my very new experience.

What to expect… In seeking out different contributors I have also tried to make an effort to have this blog be more than just spiritual but all-encompassing of marriage, so posts may not always be specifically about marriage as a Christian sacrament but also about the political, economic, anthropological, etc. sides of marriage.  Each contributor is welcome to post as much or as little information about their experience as they wish, so don’t always expect some nitty-gritty stories.  Our purpose here though is to share our experiences and to create some discussion around what marriage is and how in most aspects it calls us to put our masculinity aside, to break down a lot of stereotypes, and be a loving husband who treats his wife as an equal.  I realize that discussion may not always take place on this blog (although I hope people post comments often) but even if you mention a topic we talk about to one of your buddies, or at the dinner table then we making some sort of impact.  At this point we do not have a schedule for how often a blog post will come through, but hopefully we will find some sort of rhythm and we also realize that our posts will be available to more than just married men, anyone is welcome to read and post comments.  Our posts could include things such as book reviews, pleas for advice, stories of our experiences, philosophies of marriage, and much more… (I’m leaving the creativity up to all of us).

The title… Why “Finding Your Stride”?  I thought of it today when I was on my way home from purchasing some running shoes.  My wife and I have decided to run a half-marathon in May and so training will begin soon after the first of January.  We have run a few 5K’s together and this will be her third half-marathon (I’ve never run that far in my life).  I often find it challenging to run by myself and prefer to run with someone else because it is easier if I have someone’s breathing and steps to listen to and mimic – that way I pace myself better and find a sustainable stride.  I find that very analogous to marriage – we often have to listen to the other person to see where they are so that we can pace ourselves.  We have to find that stride where we both can work together and thrive.  And, as our bodies age, our running abilities and our stride will change just as in marriage with different events and hurdles.  So then we have to find our stride, sharing our experiences and growing from one another…